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Court says state should handle scholarship disputes


An appeals court Friday said it is up to the Florida Department of Education to handle a complaint from a parent who argues her children should receive more aid under the state's John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program. The 5th District Court of Appeal sided with the Seminole County School Board in a dispute with a parent identified only by the initials A.F. The voucher-like McKay program provides money for students with disabilities to attend private schools. After receiving requests from parents who want their children to participate in the program, school districts must complete "matrices" for services that help determine how much money will be provided, according to the appeals-court ruling. In the Seminole County case, A.F. filed a complaint with the school district contending that the matrices for her two children were incorrect, which would result in them receiving less scholarship money than they should. The county school board, however, dismissed the complaint and said A.F. needed to take the dispute to the Department of Education. A three-judge panel of the appeals court issued a seven-page ruling Friday that agreed with the school board. The ruling said that under state law, "the Legislature has given the DOE the primary responsibility for the administration of the McKay scholarship program. Furthermore … the DOE has the authority to compel school district compliance with the program's requirements."